Archive for February, 2004

This is funny:

When I first started looking for jobs over a year and a half ago I did a little reading: “What Color Is Your Parachute?”, “Crossing The Unknown Sea”, and endless articles with advice on landing a job.

What I noticed is that, while jobs themselves were scarce, articles and books about jobs were plentiful. Imagine that?

So I did some research and wrote a very good and informative piece on how to get a job. And just as I suspected, I was far better at writing about it than acually doing it.

I never got the article published because writing is a very insular industry and major newspapers are generally unionized. This means that freelance submissions are not permitted.

I asked Woody White from the Greenville News about that very issue when I called him to gauge interest in my article. He promised to “take a look at it”. This meant that I would take the time to write the piece and he would take the time to tell me he couldn’t publish it.

Well….we see who gets the last laugh!! It seems I am now an expert in job hunting (although I am still unemployed). Content from my article, published nowhere but on this site, is quoted alongside other reputable sources at as providing “professional” insight on the art of job-hunting.

Here is the link: Mine is the third quote.

Anybody else need any expert advice??

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Its been a while since I’ve made a post.

I haven’t been doing much, nor I suppose have I been thinking much.

I look for jobs that I’m not qualified for, drink lots of coffee, play basketball, drink heavily on occasion, and see my girlfriend. Oh yeah, and I sit in front of this computer alot too.

I’m reading three books right now.

“Topgrading” is a business book about the challenge of recruiting and keeping talented employees. Its ok, sort of strikes me as a long advertisement for the author’s consulting services.

“Inside a US Embassy” is a behind the scenes look at life in the Foreign Service. I’m taking the Foreign Service exam in April and thought that before spending 3 mosquito-infested years as the ambassador to Upper Volta I’d do a little research on the job.

“A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” is about the Siberian work camps under Stalin. It paints a pretty grim picture. I don’t understand why the book is so famous. It is fair at best.

I just finished “The Progress Paradox”. It is the best non-fiction book I’ve read in recent memory. I loved it. It outlines the rise of the American economy against the fall of American well-being. It is extremely interesting, both psychologically and economically.

Other than that, nothing. I would like to make a trip to visit some friends, but I don’t have the money. If I had a job, I’d have the money, but not the time. Oh well.

I think I’ll go to bed.

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Dear People,

I think this is the first entry I’ve ever written that is a direct response to someone else’s question. It is also something I’m sure others have considered. BC Rogers made me think about it again the other day in an email and I feel I owe him and some others an explanation.

If I have such an issue with the work/consume attitude, do not share the American obsession with productivity, think we’re often being scammed and told half truths by our government and find most people to be blindly unquestioning of the status of their lives….then why don’t I pack up and fucking leave??? I’ve done it before and obviously miss traveling. It is almost as if I am whining and lack the nerve to go. Everyone hates a whiner….even me. Why am I still here?

I have a gut feeling as to why I haven’t left, but I’m not sure if I understand it well enough to say it in words, but here goes:

Yes, my past does haunt me. Yes, I miss travel. But that does not mean I want to or should return to it.

When soldiers come home from war they have a hard time re-acclimating to regular life. This is not soley because they are scarred from killing foreigners. During war life is very intense. Everything is meaningful. Things happen in a flash and the stakes are high. You live forever wrapped in the moment because it is so important.

Regular life in the US pales in comparison. It is simply hard to get motivated to trudge through another day of work, or worry about dinner parties or office politics when you think back on what your life was once like….no matter that it was good or bad….just that it was once intense and meaningful. How can a daily routine ever compete with life at high volume??

I know I am not a soldier. I know the analogy is not completely valid, but it is real nonetheless. Reality TV stars complain about the letdown after the cameras stop rolling. Actors and performers speak of the rush of being on stage. After their careers end professional athletes can sink into depressions that last for years. All of them speak of missing the game. They miss that feeling.

Travel is like that. Nearly all travelers experience withdrawl after they go back home. Re-acclimation is extremely difficult. Depression is very common (something I have thankfully avoided). I know this not from any scientific studies, but from conversations with real people.

You see, travel is like a drug…actually, no. Travel is a drug. You become addicted to the next place even when the next place is no longer the source of pleasure it once was, but merely a way to alleviate the anxiety of sitting still. The estrangement from your former life can only be escaped by continually starting a new one.

Like a drug, travel resembles life, only more intense. It is the source of your pleasure and the absence of it is the root of your pain. The more you travel the less normal life offers you, which in turn further distances you from your previous life, which makes you more alienated, which can only be soothed by more travel.

Like a drug, it escalates. You must always do more of it, to more remote places, for longer periods of time, with ever higher stakes to experience the wonder you once felt just drinking a bottle of cheap red wine overlooking the Seine watching Paris at night.

Like a drug, you long for it. You tend to forget the lonliness and remember the endless string of new and interesting people. You forget the shitty beds and restless sleep in favor of waking to a croissant and expresso looking forward to discovering a new city. You tend to forget being lost and hungry wandering around the new city and remember when some local takes pity on you and shows you a great dive restaurant then takes you out for the evening at a club that used to be a castle dungeon. You forget getting robbed of everything you have and sitting misreably at a dirty police station trying to file a police report in Spanish and remember flying to Mallorca to ride scooters with an old friend. Like cocaine addicts, you remember the rush of the hit, but forget the 3 days without sleep.

And finally, like a drug there are withdrawls. I experience those withdrawls and long for it at times, but the cure is not to take more of the drug.

Although travel is a drug, that is not the only reason I choose not to leave. After all, drugs destory your life and wreck you body. Travel does neither of those. If I chose to remain an addict so to speak, life would go on. I don’t think I would require an intervention. After all, we all chase feelings. We are all addicts to something.

The decision to stay is about a choice: Seize the Day or Seize your Life. They are not one and the same.

Travel is so immediate. It is a lifestyle for the young and unattached. It is romantic and lonely. But life can’t always be about living in the moment. To forever seize the day is a false grail. Some goals necessarily take longer to achieve, a better commitment.

Is life just a series of unrelated experiences to be gobbled up or do you want your life to be about something, to tell a meaningful story??

Shall I die saying I ate life till I burst, sailed the seas and trekked the deserts, that I loved deeper and lost more on distant and foreign shores than others even imagine, or shall I say I helped my neighbors become better people, contributed what I could to the human condition through my work, loved my wife and family all I was able, and left my children with an opportunity to surpass what I was even able to dream??

That is the choice.

It is not a rhetorical question. It is not as if there is no reward for being the moth to life’s flame. There is certainly value in coveting all you can of life. But seize the day and you remain forever a student of life, never its master. Understanding why that is true is a very hard lesson.

I have largely lived the first option. The romaniticism it holds for most people is understandable, but the bullfighter dies alone. That is what they don’t see.

I choose the second option; not necessarily because it is better, though it may be, but because I have not yet tasted its secrets. I believe we can do better, but building something better for tomorrow isn’t a result of living life as if today is your last.

Of course I really want it all. I want both tomorrow and today. And in a sense that is what I am getting. I have eaten life for long enough. It is now time to grow something.

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” 1 Corinthians 13.11

Not to say I will never travel again. I have never believed that one cannot eat their cake and have it too ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Lost in Translation is a very good movie, but I do not see the appeal for non-travelers. It tells so well what words alone fail to about the subtleties of life in the Orient. But if you’ve never been a Westerner living in the East, I fail to see the appeal.

People sometimes ask me: What do you do when you travel?? In the movie Scarlett Johanssen often walks around aimlessly, stumbling from one disconnected event to the next, always looking around, slight puzzled, slightly overwhelmed. That is what you do when you travel: You wander around puzzled and overwhelmed just sort of waiting for something to happen. And it often does.

In the first scene of the movie there is an off-handed comment by a Japanese man getting on the elevater. He says to Bill Murray, “Please to welcome you to Japan.” It’s little things like that on eternal repeat that turns life abroad into a carnival.

The movie captures so much of the irreality of travel, the circus atmosphere. So often while living in Taiwan I caught myself thinking: “Is this for real? People aren’t like this. The game is up. I know the cameras are hidden somewhere.” But they never are. And so very slowly the ridiculous bleeds into your daily life until it becomes normal….and at that point, when abnormal becomes normal, you’ve lost your grip on reality.

There are the lights of the city, sensory overload. And the people, billions of them, all short with black hair. And the stares you get, like you’re being asked one long unanswerable question. And the odd requests: “Please take a picture with me…” as if I were famous, or “Can I touch your face?” What is my reply to that? Soon you wonder when people don’t want to take pictures with you; you expect little kids to pull at the hair on your arms.

And the conversations with other Whiteys….there is so much to talk about, the country, the people, why you came, the locals, the beer, the women….but no one ever asks the question we usually ask first: “So, what do you do?”

Why not? Well, if you’ve felt the need to go to the other side of the planet chances are you don’t do anything. If you did something you’d be doing it back home and not seeking your proverbial fortune in the Orient. In the past Americans went West in search of something new. The Orient attracts those who felt the West just wasn’t quite far enough away.

I love those odd moments, like when you’re at some buddhist shrine and monks are chanting and praying, the incense is burning and some old woman shuffles by picking her nose and trips over a stray cat scrounging for the food. In life there are no second takes. Your preconceptions are nearly always less than the reality.

And through all that you catch those brief moments when you turn the corner and the sunset breaks through the smog and you hear birds chirp in the park over the din of scooter noise….and it all seems amazing and worthwhile…but still unreal.

The rice loving vertically challenged locals are trumped only by the foreigners, your bretheren. To be so far away from home one must rightly ask: “What the hell are you doing here?”

If you are in Europe perhaps the desire is to become more worldy or cosmopolitan, but as a Westerner in the East you are not running towards, you are running away. The question could be rephrased: “What was so bad at home that you felt you needed to run all the way around the world to escape?”

And those are the people you meet, the ones who are your buffer against the endless bowls of rice, days of rain and russian roulette traffic jams.

And so it becomes given that you are lost…if you were not lost before you came, you certainly have forgotten the reasons….adrift in a sea of karaoke bars and neon lights, a country-wide circle jerk of neurotic, worldy twenty-somethings desperate for something to hold on to.

There are no more anchors. Reality shifts below your feet. Everything is up for reexamination. There was a day in Greece 9 years ago I remember I wanted to call my mom to make sure everything was still real.

So there you are alone, making your way down the street by the polluted river watching the rats scamper along the docks. You stop by your favorite street vendor to order some yummy, but unidentified, treat cooked in a rusted wok from a tired old man with 3 long hairs growing out the mole on his face, handing over some monopoly money currency and wondering what the fuck you’re doing on the other side of the planet.

And so where do you go? The locals are pulling the rug out from under everything you once considered normal, your fellow Westerners are all fleeing the fallout of their former lives and alone you simply turn inward and feed on yourself, running around inside your head like a mouse on a treadwheel locked inside in a never ending b-rated kung fu flick.

That is life in the East. That is how one gets Lost in Translation.

Here is an insight. The movie does a terrific job of illustrating one of the great and secret draws of travel: Escape. Not necessarily escape from something or somewhere, but mostly an escape from yourself.

Escape from yourself….we do it through TV and alcohol, through sex and work, through religion…even gardening or sewing. Its like a temporary reprive from the weight of life. Don’t you ever get tired of being you? Are you really that great that you require your undivided attention every second of your entire life??

Travel is an extended vacation from that life. You cover more ground but skim across the top, a spectator, untouchable….you watch yourself like a movie, star in a few scenes and then dip out and show up a week later in Malaysia.

Travel is not your life. Travel is the life you want, the person you think you are. You are now the star of your life as a movie: exotic locales, lonely women with foreign accents, white beaches, cheap liquor and an overall sense of lawlessness. Don’t like the script? You’ll have a chance to rewrite it tomorrow in another equally exotic locale with cheaper liquor, even farther away…..

How far is far enough?? How many times do you escape before the escape itself becomes your new life….from which you would presumably need to escape again?? Can you take a vacation from your vacation from yourself? Am I really so self-loathing that I need such a vacation?? I never thought of myself as very self-loathing at all.

My past is a weight I cannot put down. Travel is the ghost that haunts my head.

Anyway….it was a good flick and reminds me why I don’t often do stuff that reminds me of travel.

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